Tuesday, August 16, 2011 Beware the Grease Devils!

Sri Lanka is gripped by a monster panic! Reports of bizarre creatures - or villains posing as such - are flooding in from across the country. Here's a long article on the current frenzy from the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka:
What the devil is going on?

Real or imaginary ‘grease yakas’ are frightening and attacking women; villagers are taking the law into their own hands with deadly consequences; while police say ‘grease yakas’, creation of the media, thieves and drug addicts behind incidents

By Chris Kamalendran
Sunday August 14, 2011

Ushanar Marzuka, 31, a mother of two living in a remote area in Valaichchenai on Wednesday was preparing lunch when she realised that the battery on her mobile phone was low. Since her household did not have electricity she left her two children at home and walked over to a neighbour’s house to charge her phone.

As she made her way back home, she says she was obstructed by two men clad in T-shirts and shorts with faces painted black. “They asked me where I was heading. As I responded one man tried to grab me by my hand. I freed myself and pushed him back. In the process one of them scratched me with a sharp object he carried in his hand,” Marzuka who is being treated for injuries at the Valaichchenai hospital told the Sunday Times over the telephone.

“I ran back to my neighbours house and bolted the doors and windows. We shouted for help but no one heard us. An hour later we opened the front door armed with a pole and called out for help,” she continued.

This time neighbours hearing cries for help arrived at the scene. And soon more than 100 villagers, some of them armed with clubs, some on motorcycles started searching for the two men albeit without any success, the Sunday Times learns.

“I was rushed to hospital and there I was told a man had been arrested about a kilometre away from our homes. But from the descriptions told to me I felt they had got the wrong person,” Marzuka said.

The villagers had apparently taken into ‘custody’ a man and questioned him. He had said he was visiting one of his relatives. The villagers had not believed him and beat him up.

Chief Trustee of the Ottamavadi Grand Mosque, S.M. Shifdeen said the villagers had detained a person and informed the area Police, but Police had delayed in arriving on the scene aggravating the situation.

“Two hours later the suspect was taken to the police. Rumours began to spread that the man was to be released. The rumours started because a man behaving in a suspicious manner who had been handed over to the army in the adjoining village had been released without any investigation,” he said. ‘Tension soon arose leading to a clash with police. Stones were thrown at the police prompting them to fire into the air,” Mr. Shifdeen said.

The villagers called for a hartal in Ottamavadi the next day and Eastern Province DIG Thilak Wijegunawardena held a meeting later in the day with religious leaders, officials and the army to find a solution to the mounting tension. Four policemen were transferred out of the station. As police were taking action to defuse the tension at Ottamavadi, a more serious incident was taking place in the Thotalgala tea estate –eight kilometres from Haputale.

A group of female tea pluckers were going about their routine work in the estate when two people in black t-shirts had reportedly jumped on them from a tree. The two men were soon caught by fellow labourers who started assaulting them. With more and more workers converging on the scene they were beaten to death.

Hours earlier two other men behaving in a suspicious manner had been apprehended by villagers in the same area. They had assaulted the two men apparently in the presence of police. This led to a clash between the police and villagers, which left the OIC of the area police and a constable injured. Because of this earlier incident police had delayed about five hours to reach the scene at Thotalagala estate, the Sunday Times learns.

“Police may have been able to save the lives of those two if they had arrived on time,” an estate official said. The bodies were taken to the Badulla hospital on Friday for postmortem. Family members of the victims had identified the men as Somasundaram Mahendran (29) and Sylvester John Peter (35).

Family members claim that the two men had gone into the estate to collect some overdue payments for some rugs they had sold to people on the estate. However this was dismissed by the estate workers.

These are not isolated incidents. Similar incidents are being reported from various parts of the country, some ending in fatal consequemces. In most cases the villagers have taken the law into their hands as they say they have no confidence in the police.

In various parts of the country youth armed with poles and clubs were reported to be keeping night vigil looking out for suspicious-looking people who are now being widely termed as ‘grease yakas’.

In Daulagala, off Kandy a 23 year old youth who was among a group of villagers giving chase to a suspicious person got entangled in a live electrical wire set to a trap wild boar and was electrocuted.

In two separate incidents in Nawagattegama sightings of ‘grease yakas’ were reported. In one instance police arrested a person who apparently turned out to be a mentally-handicapped patient, while in the other incident a woman had run into the jungle after she claimed she was frightened off by a man.

With villagers in several areas taking the law into their hands, tension appears to be mounting. In Sammanturai and Pottuvil two teams of WildLife officers carrying out an elephant census came under attack on Thursday night.

In Sammanturai two officers were given chase by the villagers and they ended up at the police station. Villagers had then pelted stones at the police prompting them use tear gas to disperse the crowds. The STF was called to control the situation.

In Urani, Pottuvil, villagers attacked three WildLife officers prompting the army to intervene. Villagers had attacked the soldiers as well. On Friday, villagers detained three boys who were apparently loitering in the Vinayagapuram area of Tirukkovil and handed them over to the police. Later, hundreds of people had converged at the police station demanding that the boys be handed over to them to carry out their own ‘investigations’.

Villagers set fire to tyres , pelted stones at the police prompting them to open fire injuring two villagers. The army was called to the area to control the situation. In Habarana, a man had reportedly attacked two women scratching them on their chest. The women were in their homes when the incidents occurred. “I am scared to stay in my own home,” one of the women told the Sunday Times.

In Kantale a garment factory girl was returning after work when a person in a full –faced helmet had molested her. The man had escaped. In Agarapatana on Friday morning three unidentified persons were reported to have frightened female tea pluckers who were on their way to work. At least five women had fainted on seeing the men, the Sunday Times learns.

In Galewela two Army deserters and an ex-soldier were arrested for acting as ‘grease yakas’ and frightening women in the area. In one case a 28-year-old Army deserter was arrested for walking naked at night while another was arrested for peeping through windows. In a deadly twist to these incidents, youth armed with swords, knives and iron poles are roaming the villages at night to prevent such incidents, the Sunday Times learns.

Galewela OIC, Rukshantha Perera in an apparent attempt to prevent villagers taking the law into their hands had summoned the vigilance committees and told them only to keep watch. He warned them that anyone walking after 7. p.m. armed with clubs and swords would be arrested.

Back at Police Headquarters in Colombo, Police Chief N.K. Illangakoon on Thursday addressed a news conference. He said thieves and drug addicts were operating on these areas. Senior DIG Pujith Jayasundara said there were no ‘grease yakas’ and it was a creation of the media.

But villagers continue to live in fear and uncertainty, whether it be real or imaginary ‘grease yakas’ or thieves who are prowling in their villages.

Waves of mass hysteria centering on cryptozoological critters are still pretty common. Witch panics occur regularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, India was plagued by a "monkey man" not too long ago, and then there's the Malaysian orang minyak rampage I posted on a few years back. The grease yaka is identical to the orang minyak in both appearance and behavior, right down to the tales of ne'er-do-wells disguising themselves as the demonic entities to facilitate their criminal activities.

And that bit of folklore is central to the current panic. The mobs are out looking for human criminals and not supernatural beings. That means this grease yaka frenzy may have more in common with the clown scares and other "pedo panics" of the West than the full-blown monster hysteria associated with the developing world.

For those interested in reading more, Brian Chapman of the Forteana Yahoo Group has done an amazing job of collating news stories on the events:

Drunken 'grease devils' scare women
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 2 August 2011
Grease yakas, a fiction
Daily News [Sri Lanka] | 5 August 2011
Special Task Force on the look out for 'grease devils'
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 11 August 2011
Three die in "Grease Devil" curse
Sunday Times [Sri Lanka] | 11 August 2011
Dancing the devil
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 11 August 2011
STF to go after 'Grease Devils'
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 11 August 2011
'Grease Devils' -- Myth: IGP
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 11 August 2011
"Grease Devil" panic grips rural Sri Lanka, at least three dead
Reuters | 12 August 2011
Site of 'grease devil' saga gets STF protection
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 13 August 2011
Curfew in Pottuvil; One Killed in Clashes
Daily Mirror [Sri Lanka] | 13 August 2011
An unbelievable collapse of confidence in law enforcement
The Sunday Times [Sri Lanka] | 14 August 2011
The Grease Yaka Sightings: Fact Vs. Myth
The Sunday Leader [Sri Lanka] | 14 August 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011 I Was a Teenage Exorcist

Ah, the Religious Right. It's gotten to the point where we can't tell hoax from reality from Japanese cartoon show. From that bastion of good taste, the Daily Mail:
‘We're not like normal teenagers'
Meet the exorcist schoolgirls who spend their time casting out DEMONS around the world
  • Brynne Larson, 16, is one of many newly-qualified teenage demon slayers
  • Reverend Bob Larson of Spiritual Freedom Churches runs exorcist school
  • No set protocol for exorcisms but girls carry a Bible, holy water and a cross
By Jeff Maysh
Last updated at 6:37 PM on 11th August 2011

The five teenage girls might look like they’re in a normal class, eagerly reading their textbooks and answering their teacher’s questions diligently.

But the textbooks are Bibles and the girls all have crosses instead of protractors, as they train to become exorcists - real exorcists who fight demons, curses and evil spells.

‘People do look a bit surprised when I arrive,’ admits graduate exorcist Brynne Larson. ‘When people call for an exorcist, they don’t picture a 16-year-old high school girl.’

But Brynne, from Phoenix, Arizona, is one of a new breed of qualified teenage demon slayers, who answered a call when the Church made the admission of there being a worldwide exorcist shortage.

But despite drastic efforts, supply has still not met demand for the controversial ceremony.

The Vatican’s chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, has revealed that he alone has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession.

‘The Church just can’t keep up with demand. But I have 100 teams of trained exorcists working all over the world, and outbreaks of demonic possession are getting out of control. Our phone lines are ringing constantly - we receive up to 1,000 individual requests monthly, and we travel to countries like Africa, Ukraine, England and even Australia'

So if the forces of darkness start getting the upper hand, who should you call? Evangelist Reverend Bob Larson of Spiritual Freedom Churches International - and his remarkable school for exorcists.

‘Think of it more of an exorcist franchise,’ Rev Larson tells MailOnline exclusively.

‘The Church just can’t keep up with demand. But I have 100 teams of trained exorcists working all over the world, and outbreaks of demonic possession are getting out of control.

‘Our phone lines are ringing constantly - we receive up to 1,000 individual requests monthly, and we travel to countries like Africa, Ukraine, England and even Australia.’

But while his teams include exorcists aged up to 70, one group of his protégées are causing waves in the religious community. They are teenage girls.

Savannah Scherkenback, 19, and her sister Tess, 16, are Rev Larson’s latest graduates from his school for exorcists.

‘We have found that our female, teenage exorcists are particularly effective at curing the possessed,’ says Rev Larson, whose daughter Brynne is a supernaturally talented exorcist.

Highly experienced in casting out demons, saving souls, and banishing evil spirits to hell, she is also a student who enjoys styling her hair, shopping and meeting her friends at Starbucks.

Those friends include trainee undergraduate exorcists, Melanie Massih, 16, her sister Christina, 15, also students at Rev Larson’s exorcist school.

They may love hanging out like normal teenagers, but they don’t watch TV like the rest of us.

‘I think Harry Potter and Twilight are instigators of evil,’ Savannah says. ‘They nullify morality and just serve to hook people in with evil.

‘I don’t watch any television at all. I’m much too busy praying and fighting the devil.’

And so on a hot Sunday afternoon, inside a modest three-star hotel in the middle of arid Scottsdale, Arizona, the blinds are mysteriously drawn around a small conference hall, and Rev Larson begins today’s class.

Our trainee exorcists may look to casual observers more like X Factor contestants than exorcists, but this is a serious matter.

The topic is exorcism - the use of prayer to remove the devil or demonic spirits – which has its roots in early Christianity, and is described by the church as ‘the act of driving out, or warding off, demons who infest a person or place’.

Rev Larson is quick to remind his pupils of the tell-tale signs of demonic possession.

‘Speaking a language that the person has never learned,’ he preaches, ‘having a supernatural strength, having a violent aversion to God, the cross and a hatred of holy water.’

While exorcisms have been taught and carried out since the start of the Catholic Church, there has never been a greater demand than today, and for the teenage trainees of the Exorcist school, today’s class is a matter of life and death.

This afternoon, a handwritten sign outside the conference hall reads: ‘Pre-Deliverance Class 4:00pm. Personal ministry by appointment.’

The Pre-deliverance classes are a beginner’s lesson, promising everything you need to know about demons and exorcism.
More at the link, including glamor shots of the more toothsome exorcists. And do my eyes deceive me, or has the Mail used Photoshop to shorten the dress on li'l Savannah in some pics?